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Making A Case For Marriage

This is a revised version of an earlier post titled ‘To Marry Or Not To Marry, That Is The Question‘.

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A lot of my friends, especially recently, say that they don’t believe in marriage. This global, centuries-old institution is losing favour because of the political dynamics natural to any family, the complication of multiple opinions, conflicting agendas and excessive rituals. The world is starting to split up into hostile factions on this point, each side tossing barbs to the other (“You’re stuck in fairytale land!” clashes with “You’re commitment-phobic!”).

First of all, let’s distinguish the wedding from the marriage. The wedding is the formalization, the ceremony that symbolizes that two people are henceforth bound together, socially and legally. Customs may vary but this is the fundamental purpose of every single wedding ceremony conducted over the world. It is a ritual and like all other rituals, it only has as much significance as the people carrying it out, attach to it. It is true that no paper or custom can ensure or create a fulfilling union between two people. That has to be built by the two people in question, bit by agonizing, confusing, wearying bit.

Now let us consider marriage itself, beyond the rituals, beyond the superficialities of sindoor and rings. It is the meeting and combining of two people’s lives. It is the merging of assets, of tangible ones like money & possessions and of intangibles like career, eating habits, lifestyle choices etc.

Take the most basic human action of eating. Everyone does it. It’s difficult enough to decide on one meal to be shared by two people (eating place, seating, cuisine, taste, spice, vegetarian/non-vegetarian etc). How much more complicated it would be to repeat this for the rest of the two people’s lives? Multiply that several thousand fold for every other aspect of life above food and we start to see just why marriage is such a complicated affair.

This alone tells us that the only sensible way to start, is to do it in an organized manner. All the supposedly meaningless rituals provide a framework for two people to undertake this arduous venture. I’d say that it is a template at best and can (and should) be customized to the couple’s requirements.

Considering what a massive undertaking this is, it’s only prudent to account for issues and breakdowns. It’s a fool’s errand to go starry-eyed into something as big as a lifelong relationship and assume blithely that everything will work out in a ‘happily ever after’ way. Marriages are not always happy. Unions are not guaranteed to work. Compatibility may not last. While a relationship should only be undertaken with the hopes of it working, the possibility that it may not should also be borne in mind.

A discussion about marriage, especially one that attempts to be objective & rational, is incomplete without talking about divorce. What happens to the two lives that were joint together, if things don’t work out? The division of those aforementioned assets is a complicated exercise, one that often consumes the people involved, completely and leaves everyone dissatisfied. There’s no easy way to unite or to end emotional involvement; that bit is always going to be bloody. It seems wise to at least sort out the relatively easier things like possessions and even that’s not easy. A formal ritual is a process that can be closed most cleanly. If at this juncture, the law must be brought in as an impartial third party, it is only fair to have it be a party to the union right at the start, which is the legal wedding ritual.

Then there is the question of children. You may have the temerity to go against society and the strength to survive a messy breakdown, outside the structure of marriage. However, can you guarantee the same for your children? It doesn’t feel fair to thrust one’s life’s choices and their consequences onto one’s children, even before they choose it for themselves. Society still isn’t easy on the children of a single parent, especially an unmarried one, never mind an unmarried mother. Whether a couple ever has children or not is immaterial. This is far too important to overlook what might be even a remote possibility.

You should not have to run around desperately in search of a partner. You shouldn’t need to sucker someone into the grand party of a wedding. Singledom works for a lot of people as do non-conventional relationship structures. However, if you do decide to make a lifelong commitment to another human being, marriage is a clean, convenient way to do it.

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A version of this is posted to Love Beckons.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Ten Things Men Should Never Do While Dating

This is an old post, reprised from my archives. Here it is, a few years later but still valid.

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Dating can be a good way to meet a prospective partner. But the process can involve various situations, not all of which are savory experiences. There is a lot of advice available on things that one should do, in preparation of, during and after a date. Even so, people make simple mistakes which put off their date and potentially lose them what could have been a great relationship.

If you are a man, here are a few actions that you should cross off your list and ensure that you never display to your date:

1. Staring at her bust

There is just no excuse for this. A woman might be willing to accept that a random guy on a bus or across the street may do this. She might reason that he has the right to look where he wants. Then remember that she also has the right to mentally strike him off the list of people that she’d ever date. But when she is on a date with you, she don’t have that option anymore. If she’s reasonably polite, she has forgone the option of crossing you off at least till the end of the date. Respect that and don’t treat her like a sex object the very minute you start your date.

 2. Ogling other women

Some men use the excuse of ‘I can’t look at you so I’ll look at others’. Remember that you’re out on a date. That means you and she got together to spend time with each other. Focus on the last three words. One date does not tie you to her but it does warrant the courtesy of your undivided attention, at least.

3. Boasting

Showing off is a natural biological action peculiar to the male species, especially when in the presence of the opposite sex. Animals do it, insects do it and human men do it too. Just don’t go on and on about it. The showing off is a mating ritual among the aforementioned life forms and ceases once the connection has been made. Assume that the connection has been made the minute the date has been accepted. There’s really no reason to go on and on about the number of foreign trips you go on, how earth-shatteringly important you are to your company, how you were having tea last week with the Dalai Lama and how many thousand books you read in the past year. It’s off-putting and most importantly it’s boring. You can safely assume that your date tuned out the minute you started throwing numbers at her.

4. Not listening at all

It’s a conversation. That means both people talk and listen. Talk some, she’ll listen. Then let her talk and you need to do more than stare around the room, ask the waiter for refills and interrupt to talk about the movie you saw. Assume that she can interest you with more than her bust. She could have a sense of humour, an opinion and intelligence too. Give her a chance to show you that too.

5. Calling her names like ‘Babe’, ‘Sweetheart’ or ‘Honeybun’

It’s a first date. She could be your girlfriend but she is not, as yet. The two of you could be friends but you haven’t gotten to that place, right now. Undue familiarity and worse, sexist phrases are instant turn-offs. She has a name; use it. In time, she might permit you to give her a nickname, but at least be original.

6. Playing SuperShrink

You’ve probably heard that women dabble in pop psychology. Maybe she has issues. Everyone does, it’s normal. But don’t put her under a microscope and psycho-analyze her on a date. It’s immensely offensive to tell her that she’s afraid of getting too close to men because of her Electra complex. If you’re a doctor, that’s work during a leisure activity. BORING. If you’re not a doctor, it tells her that you’re just being a creep.

7. Caveating

It’s not cool to be commitment-phobic. Your messy love life and your crazy work schedules are not her concerns. You can go for a movie alone or have lunch on your own if these are true. If this date is happening, it’s because you agreed to it. Don’t waste her time and yours by coming to a date and then talking about why it can’t go further.

8. Bringing other people along

Are you serious? Friends? Parents? Siblings? Colleagues? If it’s a date, it’s between two people. Any more and it’s a party, a group or worse – an orgy. She may not mind meeting big groups of people. But not on a date. You ask people out because you want to spend time with them alone. You accept a date for the same reason. For group dos, you get invited and drop in or not. It’s different. Please get that, it messes things up if you don’t.

9. Self-help style follow throughs

This is important. If the date went well, it’s okay to keep in touch. Strike that, it’s good form, it’s good for you and for her to keep in touch. Please forget what you heard about waiting three days before calling (or whatever it was you learnt in school and college). Those games are for adolescents. Send a text message saying it was fun and you’d like to catch up again. Add her on Facebook. Email or drop her a note. Open a chat window and say hi. There are loads of embarrassment-free ways to say that you liked what you saw and would like to know more.

10. Being a jerk

This is super-critical so listen up: Do everything or anything in point.9 only, repeat ONLY if you are interested in going out again. There’s no easy way to say that it didn’t quite ‘happen’ so just don’t say anything at all. But don’t prolong the agony by keeping up the conversation. You’ve spent some time in each other’s company. If it didn’t work out, there’s no reason to waste any more of each other’s time. You don’t get brownie NiceGuy points for acting interested when you are not.

If the date didn’t go as well as you thought, just tell her so. She may be disappointed but that’s better than being disgusted. And if you’re that terrified of telling the truth, at least wait till the date’s over. Don’t scuttle it with games or lies while it’s in progress. People can always tell. She may not like it but she’ll respect you for honesty.

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Also posted to Love Beckons.

Long Distance Relationships

Let’s be honest. Given a choice, I would never pick a long distance relationship. I mean, what’s the point? Like DeePad says in Love Aaj Kal,

Kya fayda? Relationship ke jo achche things hai woh nahin.

(What’s the point? The benefits of a relationship aren’t present.)

And yet, I guess long distance relationships do happen. No one gets into one for the sheer joy of it. It’s practical (like the movie says) and we live in a world of super-pragmatism.

Anurag Kashyap makes an interesting observation (in his commentary of Dev D – quoted in context only, not words).

In that time, people used to write letters to and wait for months to hear from each other. In this day and age, they talk every day, they chat and email. They are a part of each other’s lives. They are emotionally connected. So the frustration is just physical.

Interesting point that. It isn’t just the sexual deprivation while being completely fulfilled on all the other fronts. There is that loss of a tangibleness in the relationship. For a hardcore sentimentalist like me, I wonder where’s the romance in memories of emails and phone conversations?

There is of course that sense of incompleteness from not really know what the other person is looking like at the point of time. Is he smiling, does she incline her head to one side when I say her name? Even more, in detail, I can explain the delicious aroma of the samosas frying next door but can he really grasp the entirety of what I’m saying? Does,

I’d love to be sharing them with a hot cup of tea with you on a day like this?

..even begin to cut it? Truly, a look is worth a thousand words and more. There is so much that words can’t say, after all, that my eyes can.

Which brings me to think about the last time I had a long-distance relationship. I think the biggest problem with it was that you may still be able to sustain a relationship long distance. But to build a relationship long distance…that just seems impossible to me now.

I think what also happens is that one tends to overcompensate for the lack of physical proximity with an extra serving of emotional intimacy. For what else is our compulsive social networking, our minute-to-minute status updates? We miss the physical company of other people and probably we are all such a lonely generation that we wander into the excess of forced emotional closeness.

To come back to the long distance relationship, I must admit that there is also something vaguely appealing about it, in equal measure. There is the convenience and practicality masquerading as ‘respect for the other person’s choices’.

There is the supposed trust and comfort levels that we associate with being able to have a relationship with two physical addresses. Perhaps it is true that some measure of trust does exist but in today’s day of disposable relationships and where marriage itself is an ambiguous term, I think it is largely about shutting your eyes to what you don’t want to face. Somehow a relationship whose manifestations are no more than an email inbox and a mobile phone just seem easier to shut away or even ignore. (I rather expect this statement will cause some uproar so I’ll clarify that as everything else on this blog, it’s just my point of view). What can be more attractive to a generation of people hungover on choices and control?

There is a certain romanticization too, of the other person, of the special bond etc. But when it comes down to it, people are just people, it is our individual experiences with them that make them special to us. And there is that undefinable something that draws us to a particular person and not another. I’m just saying that we’re ignoring that altogether in a long-distance relationship.

It’s like perfume. There’s no point trying to describe it, you  just have to get close and smell it to know what it’s like.

Versions of this article are also posted at Yahoo! Real Beauty and Love Beckons.

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